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Introduction to Chemistry

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Do you wonder what chemistry is or why you would want to study it? Take a look at answers to some basic questions about chemistry.

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Why Do Clothes Wrinkle?

Sunday April 20, 2014
Ironing Clothing (Getty Images)I think the only good thing about old permanent press fabrics is that they tended to disintegrate pretty quickly so you never had to wear them for long. They were itchy, smelly, and toxic, thanks to the presence of formaldehyde in the treatment that made them wrinkle-free (much like flame retardant clothing in those respects). Of course, modern wrinkle-free fabrics aren't nearly as heinous as their predecessors. Advances in polymer chemistry have led to significant improvements.

The key to both the cause of wrinkling and its solution lies in understanding chemical bonds. Wrinkles form when you break chemical bonds within fabric polymers and then reform them when the fabric is crumpled up. You can break bonds by heating fabric. Other polymers use hydrogen bonding, so getting those materials wet allows the hydrogen bonds in water to restructure the molecules. When you press clothes with a steam iron, you have both heat and water, so you can effectively remove wrinkles. Usually you can prevent them from forming in the first place, even with non-permanent press fabrics, by using a dryer with a cool down cycle and making sure the dryer runs long enough that your clothes are completely dry before the cycle stops.

Why Clothes Wrinkle | How Disposable Diapers Work

420 and Marijuana

Sunday April 20, 2014
420 is associated with marijuana or cannabis. (Dohduhdah)Today's date is 4-20, which means it's 420. What is 420? It's a sort of counterculture holiday which is associated with cannabis or marijuana. Wikipedia has a good overview of various 420 observances around the world. If you're interested in learning more about marijuana and its chemical properties and physiological effects, be sure to check out my Marijuana Facts page.

This Day in Science History - April 20 - Franz Achard

Saturday April 19, 2014
Sugar Cubes/Uwe Hermann April 20th marks the passing of the man who first brought table sugar to the masses. Before Franz Achard came up with his refinement process, sugar was a luxury item available only to the wealthy. His process removed sucrose from common beets. This provided usable table sugar at such a low price where anyone could afford to keep sugar in their house.

Find out what else occurred on this day in science history.

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How to Make Glow in the Dark Ice

Saturday April 19, 2014
Glowing Ice Cubes (Anne Helmenstine)Glow in the dark ice is really easy to make. How did I do it? I opened up a bottle of tonic water, poured it into an ice cube tray, and stuck it in the freezer. Tonic water glows vivid bright blue under a black light. The glow is activated by other sources of ultraviolet light, such as fluorescent lights or sunlight, though the glow won't appear as bright in part because the room won't be as dark. If you want to duplicate the effect in the photo, you just need a black light somewhere in the room with the ice.

Glowing Ice Flavor Tips
Personally, I think tonic water tastes vile, so I have a couple of tips for improving the flavor of the ice cubes. The first tip is to dilute the tonic water. If you mix the tonic water with normal water your ice cubes will last longer (pure tonic water cubes melt fairly quickly) and won't taste as much like quinine (the ingredient responsible for the glow). Otherwise, you can cut it with lemonade or another sweet-sour drink that won't suffer from the bitter tang of the quinine. The second option is to put the ice into a drink where the flavor is desirable. The obvious choice would be to use the ice cubes in gin to make a gin and tonic. Non-alcoholic choices include fruit juice, Mountain Dew™, or Kool-Aid™. Don't worry about diminishing the glow from the ice. This photo is of tonic water ice and water.

Types of Tonic Water
The tonic water has to contain quinine. It doesn't make a difference whether you use diet or regular tonic water, just be sure the label lists quinine. Some brands contain more flavoring than others, but I have had equally good luck with inexpensive store brands and premium brands. Another tip is to use clear plastic cups instead of glasses. Most plastic cups are brightly fluorescent under black light, so you get an added glow if you use them. You might want to take a mini-black light with you when you go shopping, to see what else will glow for you.

You can make the ice into a glowing crystal ball to decorate punch bowls or just look cool. Here's a YouTube video showing you how to do it and what to expect.

How to Make Flaming Ice | Glow in the Dark Slime

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